Sometimes, as I rush to do a final edit of my weekly post, or fight with the scanner settings for the illustration, I think, why am I doing this? There is no end of the worthwhile stuff I could get done if I stopped blogging, such as:
–Cull the books in my bookcase and the clothes in my closet
–Dust the antique canning jars on my kitchen counter
–Finish that enormous needlepoint pillow I started two years ago
–Meditate for an hour instead of twenty minutes.
On days when almost anything seems preferable to squeezing out yet another blog post, I find dozens of sensible reasons for quitting:
–I have run out of childhood memories, and the present is too depressing to write about
–My vocabulary is shrinking
–I can’t write about people I know, because I might hurt their feelings
–Does the universe really need another blog? Wouldn’t my time be better spent volunteering at the food bank or the humane society?
And yet, I keep churning out my bits and pieces, as I have for the past thirteen years, for a total now of close to 1200 posts. What keeps me going?
When you have been sustained from the age of reason onwards by school and professional schedules, and those schedules are no longer there, pretending to yourself that you have an obligation to produce something regularly can save your sanity. I pretend that it is my “job” to write a post every Wednesday, or Thursday at the latest. The blog gives shape to my week, which would otherwise ooze amorphously from Monday to Sunday, with neither climax nor coda.
After the week’s entry appears, I start thinking about the next one in a loose, casual way, while I brush my teeth or walk the dog. I find that it’s better to approach my topics sideways rather than head-on, avoiding looking them in the eye, lest they scatter like shy gazelles. On Friday, I begin the first draft. On Monday, appalled by the silliness of what I’ve written, I cut great big chunks out of it. Tuesday is for figuring out the illustration. On Wednesday I do final revisions, try to keep myself from trashing the whole thing, and solve the technical problems–the illustration is too big or too small or won’t upload at all–that crop up with dismaying frequency.
Have you noticed how, whereas painters and musicians usually speak of painting and playing with pleasure, writers always complain about writing? And with good reason, because writing is a pain. I must confess to feeling suspicious of anybody who says they love to write–or at least suspicious of their writing. However, just as when you’ve been hitting your head against the wall it feels wonderful to stop, there is nothing as delicious as the relief of having written. The feeling of purity and worthiness (I am a responsible person with a serious job!) that envelops me as I hit the Publish button is one of the main things that keep me writing.
And always, it is heart-warming and life-affirming to hear from my readers, and to know that the stuff I write about resonates with their own experience. With blogging, inevitably, come stats. Of course I check mine, sometimes more than once, but I try not to get too attached to charts and graphs. I don’t want to be driven to despair by lack of success on social media, like some hapless adolescent. Anyway, it’s impossible to predict which posts will get the most attention, so I keep hammering away, hoping that with luck I’ll hit at least a few nails on the head.
But the best and final reason that I keep writing and drawing is this sentence by another nun in my life, Sister Corita Kent, pop art pioneer and social justice activist, who taught during the troubled 60s and 70s: “Doing and making are acts of hope, and as that hope grows we stop feeling overwhelmed by the troubles of the world.”
If you write or paint or play an instrument you know what she means. Every word, brushstroke, or musical note made with the right intention–to somehow make the world a better, more harmonious place–is an act of hope. And you also know that, no matter how difficult the process, while we write, paint, or play the troubles of the world disappear at least temporarily from our consciousness, and we breathe the oxygen of hope.